It's time for families to learn better eating habits

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross

We have all just lived through one of the coldest times in the Midwest, and as I type this the sun is shining and it seems warmer than the temperature says.

I don't think we do anything in this country without food.

If you have been waiting until the next national holiday to get back to healthier eating, I think that time has come. Yes, I know there was Presidents Day with cherry pie, Valentine's Day with chocolate and soft sugar cookies and St. Patrick's Day with roast corn beef and cabbage. It seems there is a food celebration every day for many people, but it is time for taking care of your health and body by working at getting back to eating for your health.

Most of us learn our eating habits from our parents and family members. Your parents learned theirs from their parents and grandparents. Family dynamics have changed and along with those changes came changes in our kitchen, food preparation and the kinds of foods we eat. Our eating has really changed due to the food industry, science and technology.

There are so many changes with people, families, lifestyles and activities, and most of these changes have provided the opportunity for people to eat more food. It is more convenient than ever to get food whether it be at a drive-through or picked up at a restaurant. Many of our great-grandparents were seasonal eaters in the winter months. Some ate root vegetables that were stored in the root cellar. The meat you ate was determined by what you had preserved through drying, canning or freezing. The consumption of white flour, sugar, fat, baked goods and processed foods was very small compared to today.

Ask yourself, "What are my eating habits?" and "How are my family's eating habits?" Remember that what you eat determines how you feel, how healthy you are and how your body works. Another difference in your lifestyle compared to your ancestors' lifestyle is that we tend to do less physical work. Therefore, the amount of food most of us need has changed. We also have a lot more information about food, such as the science of what our body needs to function at its best.

Most of us just eat what we like and enjoy it without necessarily thinking about what our body needs. Nutrition is the study of what food is made of and how our bodies use it. Nutrients are the chemical compounds found in foods that serve specific functions in the body. These nutrients are classified as carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water. Each food is made up of many different nutrients in various amounts and combinations. When you eat food, the digestion process breaks it down and allows the individual nutrients to be absorbed in your bloodstream.

Make sure to eat your vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. If you are like most people, you eat plenty of foods in the protein group. Prepare and enjoy good food with your family and friends. Here's to vegetables and fruits!

Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross is a Purdue Extension educator in Elkhart County. She can be reached at 574-533-0554 or at lienhart@purdue.edu.